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Ready for Potty?

Of all the stages of my eight children's lives, it's their toddler years that stood out most. Though as babies they warmed my heart every day, after one year they got really interesting as their personalities emerged. But the toddler stage can also be the most challenging. Just when you thought you'd figured out your baby's feeding, sleeping, and pooping habits, suddenly there's a slew of new situations and quirks to get a handle on. Here's one of the most common questions that I'm asked at toddler checkups:

How will I know when my daughter's ready to start potty training?
As with all milestones, focus on your child, not the calendar. She'll show signs when she's ready to start using the potty  -- both physically and mentally. Peering down at her diapers, grabbing them or trying to pull them off when they're soiled, or squatting or crossing her legs when she needs to go are clues that she's mature enough to understand how her body works (this usually happens between 18 months and 2 years). Your child might also be showing an interest in things potty-related  -- watching you go to the bathroom or talking about pee-pee or poo-poo.

If she's doing these things, and can get on and off the toilet and pull her pants down, then give toilet training a shot. Help her associate the about-to-go sensation with using the potty. As soon as you notice the usual signs that she has to go, give a quick prompt like "Let's use the potty" as you guide her toward it.

Remember, though, that setbacks are common. It may take several stops and starts before she gets the hang of it, so don't push; that'll only prolong the potty-training process.

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